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Keeler Park agreement to be finalized

To ensure the family name lives on, a few final changes have been added to an agreement between the Keeler family and Sequim for the purchase of 35 acres of land southeast of downtown Sequim that will be known as the Joseph L. Keeler Park. The city is scheduled to make the first payment, $175,000, by the end of March.

The agreement to purchase the 35 acres, which once were part of the Keeler family farm, has been in the works for close to a year. The city’s plan was to purchase the acreage, with another 10 acres being donated to the city by the Keeler family, making for 45 acres of undeveloped land to be used solely for passive recreation purposes. Negotiations came to a halt in late 2007 when a reassessment of the land knocked the purchasing price up to $1.5 million, a price tag too steep for the city to consider. The Keeler family, Joseph Keeler and his sister Carol Bolduc, offered to sell the property for its original assessed cost, making the deal yet again economically viable.

It was the intent of both the city and the Keeler family that not only should the land be kept largely untouched, reserved for passive uses such as hiking and elk-watching only, but that a component of the park should provide visitors with historical information pertaining to the Keeler family, one of the longstanding pioneer families in Sequim.

Earlier this month, Sequim city attorney Craig Ritchie made slight revisions to the purchasing agreement specifying both parties’ intent to keep the land for passive use only, as well as adding language that would prevent the city from being liable for any damages incurred on the property by an act of nature or a third party. During the March 24 meeting of the city council, Ritchie said that the contract was “in perfect order,” but he had received an addendum earlier that day from the Keelers’ attorneys ensuring, “that display areas in the property, such as viewing stations, kiosks and trail heads shall provide information regarding the history of Joseph L. Keller and family and other Sequim pioneers,” utilizing photographs and family histories provided by the Keeler family.

“Do we know how many family photographs they want, because this is supposed to be a passive park,” Mayor Laura Dubois said.

Although the council was in agreement to the request, the Keeler family also added addition language stating that the reference signage would have to be installed within 60 days of the closing on the property, which Ritchie said was impossible for the city to comply with given that there was not enough funding at present to install kiosks and viewing stations right away. The council agreed. Ritchie said that he would include the addendum to the purchasing agreement but would leave out any reference to the proposed 60 days.

According to the agreement, the city will make its first payment on or before March 31.

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